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'Building Bridges' unites the greater Minneapolis community

June 22, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

The 48-year old dream of UM’s first black quarterback finally becomes a reality.

On June 24 and 25, hundreds will gather at Canterbuy Park to make one man’s dream a reality. ‘Building Bridges’, a weekend of good food, clean fun, educational workshops, and community service exhibits, will finally bring to fruition the vision of the late Sandy Stephens, one of the first black athletes to be nationally recruited at the University of Minnesota in the early 1960s, and the country’s first black All-American quarterback.

“Sandy never forgot how much the Minneapolis community rallied around us,” explains Judge Dickson, a now-retired attorney and former roommate who played fullback for UM on the same team with Stephens. “Sandy felt very strongly that we should always remember the importance of giving opportunities to others and to make that a living thing.”

The weekend events, all to be held on the grounds of Shakopee’s beautiful Canterbury Park, pulls out of the starting gates on Friday, June 24 with a VIP Reception and Dinner in the posh Ascot Room. The honorable Dave R. Metzen, Chair of the Board of Regents, will be the keynote speaker for the evening, and a special video tribute to Sandy Stephens will also be unveiled. NFL Hall of Famers Bobby Bell, Carl Eller, Willie Lanier, and others, will be on hand to grace each table of dinner guests with their own personal celebrity.

“We are very pleased to be able to provide accommodations and resources in support of this important event,” says John Harty, VP for Marketing Services at Canterbury. “Canterbury Park has always tried to be a good corporate citizen to this community, and ‘Building Bridges’ gives us another opportunity to give something back.” 25% of the gate proceeds on June 25 will go to the Sandy Stephens Scholarship Fund.

Saturday, June 25, the ‘Building Bridges’ event will provide ongoing fun and relaxation while specifically targeting local youth with educational workshops, tours and exhibits. The morning kicks off with an Equine Industry Workshop and Tour where veterinary and horse-training professionals will talk with youth about careers in the industry and give them a tour of the race track’s “backside” – a name used in the industry to describe the individuals, activities, and resources that come together behind the scenes to make the sport of horse racing possible.

Later in the day Mr. Bobby Lyle, Minnesota’s native son and internationally acclaimed jazz keyboardist and recording superstar, will conduct a music workshop for youth where participants will see a demonstration of an holistic approach to learning that combines the skills necessary for success in any profession with one’s individual heritage, health and personal development.

Other events for the day include health screenings and a genealogy workshop sponsored by American Legacy magazine, an exhibit celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to horse racing, an interactive display highlighting several NFL greats who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and other community residents.

“A key dimension to the Saturday events will be the presence of Community Ambassadors,” explains Judge Dickson. “ ‘Building Bridges’ represents our efforts to bring together the business, educational and local grass roots community, so the Community Ambassadors will play a significant role.” Ambassadors for the day include Oscar Reed, Otis Courtney, Earsell Mackbee, Barbara Foster, and others.

In 2001 an endowed scholarship fund was established at the University of Minnesota in honor of Sandy Stephens. The endowment, now valued at $150,000, is comprised of donations from individuals and organizations. The scholarship is awarded to an African-American student athlete in the university’s football program who exemplifies courage, leadership, academic achievement, and civic responsibility.

All events on Saturday are free to participating youth. Ticketed events include the Friday evening VIP Reception and Dinner and the Saturday buffet luncheon/silent auction and Lyle Jazz Trio concert. For more information on the events and times, please contact Canterbury Park, at 952-445-7223 or visit the website

All proceeds realized from the ‘Building Bridges’ events will go to the Sandy Stephens Endowment Scholarship fund.